11.16.2004

Why Did Arafat Turn Down Camp David?

The normal way of a people is to be blessed by their leaders and cursed by their enemies. The Jews, for example, were blessed with Ben Gurion, a remarkable activist, leader, politico, war-general, and intellectual. We have been cursed, however, with a long litany of bloodthirsty enemies -- the 20th century alone gave us Russian pogroms, German extermination camps, and Palestinian suicide bombers.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have been blessed by their enemies and cursed by their leaders. What better enemy to have than the Jews? With the Jews as their enemy, the Palestinians have the entire world behind them! With the Jews as their enemy, the Palestinians can count on an endless stream of leftie support, European money, United Nations resolutions, World Court rulings, and bilious BBC "documentaries. Meanwhile, it seems to me, only the Jews -- with their limited population and moral strivings -- would have left the Palestinians in one piece after 100 years of brutal terrorism. Any other enemy would have vanquished the Palestinians after experiencing decades of their brutal onslaught. But not the Jews.

And so the Palestinians have been blessed by their enemy. So while the Kurds, Chechnyans, American Indians, Tibetans -- and dozens of other ethnic groups -- have been ignored by the world, it is only the Palestinians who deserve a homeland! Why? Because of the Jews, of course! They, are, after all, only a petulant, grasping people in control of a "shitty little country".

But, alas, with such a fortunate enemy, the Palestinians find themselves with such a filthy, incompetent leader. Yasser Arafat, an unreconstructed anarcho-terrorist who has left his people stateless, impoverished, il-educated, and in the grip of a suicidal death cult that sacrifices its children to kill Jews on buses, in pizza parlors, and during Passover services.

Much of the (friendly) commentary around Arafat's passing has made this point: Arafat tried to become a statesman, but at the last minute could not help but cling to his revolutonary khaki garb. He wanted to be Che Guevera, not Nelson Mandela. Arafat is guilty in this view of, perhaps, a failure of imagination, a fear of change.

Much of the more unfriendly commentary around Arafat's death has painted him as forever and always a terrorist bent on destroying the state of Israel. In this view, Arafat meant Oslo only as a trojan horse to bring his war closer to Israel. He never gave up the "strategy of phases" which would use "liberated Palestinian land" as a staging ground to attack the Zionist enemy and destroy the Jewish state.

I must admit I am partial to this interpretation. Arafat's motives are black. His hands are bloody. His goal was policide -- the murder of a state.

Yet, if one subscribes to this belief, one must ask this question: Why did Arafat not pocket the concessions at Camp David and Taba? After all, Barak offered Arafat almost all of the West Bank and Gaza. Stuck like two daggers into Israel, from here the Palestinians could have waged a war of attrition, picked border fights, imported millions of tons of weapons, shot down airplanes over Israel's lone international airport, infiltrated Israel with sleeper cells ready to rise up and wreak havoc, etc. This is from Stephen Plaut's lively and more-right-than-wrong attack on the elusive nature of "Palestinianism" --
Creation of a Palestinian state will not result in any relaxation of tensions, regardless of its borders. Its creation will result in the greatest terrorist bloodbath in the history of the conflict, with countless rockets and missiles raining down upon Israeli civilians from the “State of Palestine” – with thousands of Jews murdered by infiltrating terrorists, who are cheered on by the European intelligentsia; where Palestinian use of Weapons of Mass Destruction is a real possibility; where “Palestine” will serve as the launching base for Arab armies from neighboring countries entering “Palestine” much like German troops entering the Rheinland in 1936.

Sounds like a great step for Arafat! Why not take this mini-state and continue the war? Why did Arafat do Israel perhaps the biggest favor of all by rejecting Barak's offer? Why did Arafat turn down Camp David?

I can only think of these possibilities.

1. Arafat could not sign a peace accord and declare an end to the conflict because he was a man of his word and he wanted to continue the conflict until victory. But, of course, Arafat was a notorious liar who broke every agreement he ever "agreed to". So it can't be this.

2. Arafat did want to destroy Israel using the "strategy of phases" -- but he was afraid of the reaction of his countrymen, who would not understand this "strategy of phases" and would believe that he had "sold them out." Yet, why couldn't Arafat have sent the word out that this was simply a step along the way to the destruction of Israel? A wink, a nod, a speech in Arabic declaring that the treaty was similar to the Hudaibiya Treaty signed by Mohammed in the 7th century and later broken when the Muslims had amassed enough power to vanquish their enemy? It worked for him during Oslo, why would it not work after Camp David?

3. Arafat turned down Camp David as a bargaining tool. He wanted a two-state solution but Barak didn't go far enough! Just a little bit more land here, a few more refugees there, and voila! But, then, why start an intifada that would destroy the Israeli left and any chance of getting the state he allegedly wanted?

4. Arafat did want to destroy Israel using the "strategy of phases" -- but Arafat counted on International support for his grievances. By signing a document ending the conflict, Arafat would forever give up support in Europe for his future steps against Israel. However, it is unlikely that Europe would have balked at supporting continued Palestinian irredentism. Appeasement, after all, seems to be the first reflex up and down the western part of the continent.

So, none of these answers seem compelling enough for me. Perhaps we end where we began -- that the Palestinians were simply cursed with a bad leader. A leader who accomplished the minor feat of using incompetent tactics to reach an unachievable goal. Perhaps, in the end, Arafat was simply a coward who feared an assasin's bullet. Or a narcissist who simply wanted to go out in a blaze of glory and blown up Jewish children. Whatever the case, Arafat is dead, and the world is a better place.

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